- Maintenance is financial assistance given by one spouse to the other during or after a marriage to ensure a reasonable standard of living and contributes to the fairness and stability of post-marital financial agreements.
- The Hindu Marriage Act 1955, Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act 1956, Code of Criminal Procedure 1973, Muslim Personal Law, Special Marriage Act of 1954, and Indian Divorce Act, 1869 are all laws that provide a framework for legal maintenance claims in India.
- It must be proven that the wife is eligible for at least one of the grounds listed in the applicable act before maintenance can be granted.
- In Orr v. Orr, the US Supreme Court decided that either the wife or the husband could provide alimony to support the other. In South Africa, the Divorce Act 70 of 1979 governs spousal maintenance, and children have the right to receive financial support from both parents. In Singapore, spousal maintenance is governed by the Women's Charter of 1961.
- To ensure a fair and just system for all parties involved, the grounds for maintenance should offer support and encourage autonomy.
The financial assistance given by one spouse to the other during or after a marriage is referred to as maintenance. It addresses differences in resources and income between spouses and ensures a reasonable standard of living. It may be granted by a judge or negotiated in a marriage contract. The amount and length of maintenance are determined by variables like the length of the marriage and the spouses' financial situations.
Claiming maintenance is essential for people who depend on it to maintain their standard of living and meet their basic needs, especially when there are differences in the resources or income of the spouses. It contributes to the fairness and stability of post-marital financial agreements.
LEGAL FRAMEWORK IN PLACE
In India, these laws offer a framework for legal maintenance claims under various conditions:
- Hindu Marriage Act, 1955: Section 24 of this Act allows either spouse—including the wife—to request interim support while a divorce case is pending. Based on aspects like the spouse seeking maintenance's needs and financial situation, the court may decide to grant maintenance.
- Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956: All Hindus, including Sikhs, Jains, and Buddhists, are covered by this Act. A wife has the right to demand maintenance from her husband under Section 18 if he neglects or declines to provide for her. Like Section 20, a legitimate or illegitimate child who is unable to support themselves may request maintenance from their parents.
- Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973: Section 125 of this code permits a wife, kids, or parents to demand alimony from a person who has the means to support them but neglects or declines to do so. This clause offers a quicker procedure for requesting maintenance through the criminal justice system and is applicable to people of all faiths. The main goal of this section is to help women and children, even though it also benefits a distressed father. Muslim Personal Law: According to the Muslim Personal Law, which incorporates the concepts of "Mehr" (dower) and "Nafaqa" (maintenance), Muslim women have the right to request maintenance.
- Couples who get married in accordance with the Special Marriage Act of 1954 are subject to its provisions. Either spouse may request maintenance before or after a divorce, according to Section 36 of the Act.
- Christians in India are covered under the Indian Divorce Act, 1869, which enables either spouse to request support depending on their available resources, income, and earning potential.
- The Indian Constitution's Article 15(3) allows the state to make special provisions for women and children.
RIGHT TO MAINTENANCE AND THE BENEFICIARIES
According to ARTICLE 39 of the constitution, the government must make sure that all citizens, both men and women, have the right to an adequate standard of living, that kids have the resources and opportunities they need to grow up healthy, and that children and young people are safeguarded from abuse and abandonment.
Even after a divorce, a wife who has not remarried can demand maintenance from her ex-husband. No matter how the divorce was obtained (by the husband, the wife, or by mutual agreement), the wife is still qualified to receive maintenance under the Maintenance Act. The same was emphasised in the case of-
District Judge of Dehradun v. Smt. Jasbir Kaur Sehgal and Others
Citation: 7 SCC 7 (1997)
The Supreme Court of India addressed the topic of alimony for divorced women in this case. According to the court's decision, a divorced woman is entitled to maintenance past the Iddat (a waiting period after divorce observed by Muslim women) and may make a maintenance claim up until the point at which she finds new marriage or becomes financially independent.
Regardless of their marital status, children have the right to make maintenance claims from their father until the age of eighteen, whether they are legitimate or not. A father may be required to pay maintenance until a minor female child reaches adulthood if her spouse has insufficient resources. A child with physical or mental abnormalities or injuries that prevent self-sufficiency may also make a maintenance claim after reaching the age of majority. Both legally born children and illegitimate ones come under this.
The Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act (HAM ACT) of 1956 establishes a maintenance obligation for elderly and disabled parents who are unable to care for themselves using their own resources, such as their own income and property, in section 20. The HAM ACT is the first law in India to require children to support their parents financially. In addition to sons, daughters are also subject to the maintenance obligation.
The refusal or neglect to maintain may be expressed or implied, it may be through words or through conduct and action, it has been decided. Sometimes, something other than more failure and omission may constitute refusal or neglect. However, a simple mistake or omission counts as a refusal or neglect to maintain when it comes to someone who lacks free will, such as a child.
GROUNDS FOR MAINTENANCE
1)According to Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure 1973, a wife is entitled to maintenance while living apart from her husband if she is mistreated, forcibly separated from him, or if the marriage has irreparably broken down. The wife does not have the right to maintenance in the following situations:
a) If she is a minor and unable to consummate.
b) If she denies the husband unrestricted access during appropriate hours.
c) Should she disobey.
d) If she never paid him a visit.
e) If she refuses to live with spouse without a valid reason.
f) If she leaves the marital residence without good cause.
g) If she runs away from her husband.
h) If she runs off with someone else.
[Muslim Personal Law]
2) Maintenance can only be awarded when it is established that the wife is entitled to it on at least one of the grounds listed in the Act. The following are some of these grounds:
a. The husband has purposefully neglected her or abandoned her.
b. The wife has been treated cruelly by the husband.
c. The husband has leprosy, venereal disease, or another infectious disease.
The husband has a second wife who is still alive.
e. The husband regularly lives with a spouse elsewhere or cohabitates with one in the same home as the wife.
f. The husband changed his religion from Hinduism to another one.
[Hindu Marriage Act]
3) Under the Parsi law, the parties' respective religions are irrelevant in criminal proceedings. The wife can inform the court, which has the authority to imprison the husband until he pays maintenance even after a court order, if the husband continues to refuse to do so. The court may order alimony in active matrimonial cases up to one-fifth of the husband's net income.
[Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act]
HOW OTHER COUNTRIES FARE
- Maintenance is often used in family law as a substitute for spousal support and it replaces alimony (the wife's entitlement to receive financial support from the husband).The USA Supreme Court ruled in Orr v. Orr, an Alabama law that limited who might be ordered to pay alimony to spouses violated the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. As of now, either the wife or the husband may pay alimony to support the other. Maintenance orders may change depending on the particulars of the case or the state jurisdiction, and legal consequences, such as contempt of court charges or other enforcement proceedings, may result from failure to abide by a maintenance order.
- The Women's Charter of 1961 in Singapore governs spousal maintenance, which includes provisions for monogamous marriages, divorce, the rights and duties of married persons, family protection, and children. Traditionally, the wife is entitled to receive maintenance both during marriage and after divorce. However, recent amendments have allowed husbands to file claims for maintenance in certain situations, such as when he is incapacitated, disabled, or unable to support self.
- The Divorce Act, 70 of 1979, Section 7, governs spousal maintenance in South Africa. The court can order maintenance based on a written settlement agreement or take into account several factors in the absence of a settlement agreement. Children in South Africa have the right to receive financial maintenance from both parents, which must be determined through negotiation and comply with the Maintenance Act 99 of 1998 and the Children's Act 38 of 2005.
The grounds for maintenance play a big part in making sure that everyone in a marriage is financially secure. On the plus side, it gives spouses who might be struggling financially or unable to support themselves a safety net and encourages equity and fairness by recognising the contributions and sacrifices made by both partners. However, the rationale for maintenance could have negative effects, such as encouraging self-sufficiency, cultivating a sense of entitlement or dependency, or all three.
Over the years, women's rights have been restored through judicial decisions and other actions, but many of them still encounter barriers when trying to enforce their rights. Hence real progress will only be made when underlying beliefs are altered. Striking a balance between offering support and promoting self-sufficiency should be carefully considered to ensure a fair and just system for all parties involved.